Twelve Stories: With Selected Early Writings

Sublunary Editions. Nov. 2023. 186p. ISBN 9781955190794. pap. $14. F
These stories taken mostly from Latimer’s1929 collection Nellie Bloom and Other Stories, combined with uncollected early writings including her rousing manifesto “The New Freedom,” comprise an especially worthy addition to Sublunary Editions’ eclectic Empyrean series of overlooked world literature. Latimer’s autobiographical stories and vignettes of Midwestern bourgeois and Manhattan bohemian life pulse with searing candor and breathtaking vulnerability. Caustic yet compassionate, she maps out the harsh confines of gender and race in arresting images and moments of crystalline clarity. That Latimer died in childbirth (after a brief, scandalous marriage to American poet and novelist Jean Toomer) adds a haunting significance to her work’s many wrenching expressions of maternal longing and angst, as when she paints depression as an “entombed child…curled behind my ribs.”
VERDICT The fierce genius on display here leaves little doubt that had she lived past 33, Latimer may well have rivaled Virginia Woolf as modernist master and feminist icon. A revelation.
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